Ever since my kids were little, there were rules. Because kids will be kids, their hands touched anything and everything. I was on a mission to keep the germs away as much as possible. Impossible, I know, but that didn’t stop this mama from trying. Those rules included washing hands with soap and warm water every day after school, wearing flip flops or preferably swim shoes when swimming at public pools and not eating food that dropped on the ground. Since the kids at that age were with me most of the time, the rules were fairly easy for me to enforce.
Recently, in observing my kids one day after school, it dawned on me that my now teen and tween still follow these rules today, without me nagging or an eye roll in sight. I’ve come to realize that if you set the ground rules from the very start, it becomes habit and second nature. And yes, do I ever regret not enforcing tidying up or eating vegetables in the same manner.
My daughter was 12 when she got her first smartphone. She’s now 15, but I remember it like it was yesterday. She was so excited and it certainly wasn’t my intention to rain on her parade, but this spanking new device came with strings attached. I’m a parent first and just like when they were little, there are still rules to be followed. I would never hand over the car keys to my kids without lessons and rules, so why should handing them a smartphone be any different? A few of my smartphone rules that both my kids must follow include sharing their passcode with me, allowing me to access their social media accounts at any time, no charging electronics in the bedroom, and turning off location privacy settings.
Early on, I was routinely checking my daughter’s phone, looking not only at what she was sharing but also what her friends were posting (you can learn a lot about their friends based on what they share—just saying). I would use examples from her feed to show her things she shouldn’t do (like seeing location on images that showed where her friends live or how an innocent vacation image had the luggage tag with address in full view). Nowadays, I feel comfortable that she’s using social media in a responsible way and I rarely check her accounts. But the rules still remain in effect.
I consider myself a tech savvy person. My friends turn to me when they have questions about their phone or social media. But I have to admit keeping up with technology is a challenge. Just when I think I have a handle on it, something new pops up. That’s why I’m so happy to learn that TELUS offers a free online resource called TELUS WISE (WISE Internet and Smartphone Education).
The brainchild of TELUS’s President and CEO Darren Entwistle, TELUS WISE is an educational site that’s available to Canadians of all ages and technical expertise, including non-TELUS customers. Topics include cyberbullying, identity theft, online safety and security, online reputation, smartphone safety and security, online privacy, seniors online and distracted driving. The successful three-year old program has grown to include in-person and virtual seminars, videos and informative guides.
As a parent, one of my favourite resources is the TELUS WISE footprint, an area geared to tweens and teens that teaches them the importance of keeping their digital footprint clean. In particular, I love the footprint discussion guide, a fantastic tool for educators and parents that includes discussion points and activities to kick start this important conversation. Kids live in the here and now, without a care or thought about the next day, let alone the next 5-10 years. As parents, it would be difficult to see them learn later in life that their digital footprint may have had a negative effect on post-secondary acceptances or job opportunities.
I strongly recommend parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, to visit the TELUS WISE site and my bet is you’ll learn something you didn’t already know. Technology is not going away any time soon. Kids will continue to use the internet and smartphones, so let’s band together and teach them to use it for social good and to make positive changes in not only their lives but also in the lives of others.
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About Wendy Morelli
Wendy loves her 2 kids and her iPhone, not necessarily always in that order. She is an app obsessed mom who loves everything tech and is (unfortunately) old enough to remember the brick Motorola cell phone and the Commodore computer. Her love for technology stems back to the 10+ years of working for technology based companies. Wendy's alter ego, "AppHipMom" has been featured in Canadian Family, iVillage, Women in Biz, EverythingMom, BlogHer and Savvy Mom.